07/28/2004 11:00PM

Oft-hurt My Captain will give Finley a go

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - If it weren't for bad luck, as the old saying goes, My Captain would have no luck at all.

My Captain - preparing to defend his championship in Saturday's $40,000-added Ernest Finley at the Sonoma County Fair - has surely had his run of bad luck continue in 2004.

But for Steve Sherman, who has made My Captain one of his special projects as the assistant trainer to his father, Art, the fact that My Captain will be racing in the Ernest Finley is good news.

"He's had a lot of problems with his feet," Steve Sherman said. "He's had some really bad quarter cracks."

Notice he used the plural. One quarter crack is bad. My Captain has been battling four of them.

The Shermans know that time is the only real cure, but they do everything they can to aid the process.

My Captain wears bar shoes to alleviate pressure on the hooves. He takes a nutritional supplement to help stimulate growth in the foot. And the Shermans constantly clean his feet, carefully checking to make sure there's no blood in the foot after gallops.

"It's very frustrating when you know he's got so much talent, and you just can't get it out of him," Sherman said. "Every time we get him close to a race, we seem to have a setback. You can't run a sore horse. It's tough enough to win these races when you're 100 percent. It's impossible if you're only 70 percent.

"There's nothing like training up to a race. You see races and gear up for them. We don't even know when we can work him because of his feet."

My Captain used the Finley last year as a springboard to three straight stakes victories.

"We're taking the bar shoes off and putting the racing shoes on," Sherman said. "If he's right, he can compete with anyone."

Quarter cracks make training difficult, especially when facing the type of competition My Captain will meet Saturday.

Onebadshark, winner of the Sam Whiting at Pleasanton, is sharp and seems the one to beat, but the race is wide open.

Onebigbag, who beat My Captain in the Saratoga at Bay Meadows in May but didn't fire when favored in the Whiting, should run better. El Dorado Shooter showed signs of life when second in the Whiting. Allwood and Alphabetic, first and fourth in the Lyttle here last year, and multiple stakes winner Halo Cat all return from layoffs of one year. Newark comes off a stakes victory at Turf Paradise, while Twentythreejaybird adds to the early speed.